Those who don’t live in the European Union and some of thos who do live within the context of one of the 27 Member States are not familiar with the functioning of this huge Instituttion, which is not an international organization, such as the UN, but a real “union” of States.
Every 7 years, Member States are called to renovate the financial allowance of the Union, which is called MFF – Multi annual Financial Framework – which collect resources from all the Members States and re-distribute all the money through a wide set of programmes that support every aspect of human activities, spanning from scientific research to agriculture, from aid to developing countries to fishing and forestry and so on. The process takes a big negotiation as all Member States must agree on the final value of the allowance and the various EU support programmes that will receive public money.
The current MFF, which will cover the timeframe between 2021 and 2027, has an overall budget of almost 2 trillion Euro, 750 of which are allocated to the so called “recovery fund” or “next generation EU”, which is the fund allocated to actions aimed at counteracting the effects of the covid pandemic.
Among the several programmes of the EU, the one which is the real Flagship of the whole EU adventure is called “Erasmus+”. It’s the programme for Education and Training which supports students, teachers, professionals and adults in the implementation of transnational mobility schemes and research programmes at every level, from primary school students to PhDs.
Erasmus+ was established in 1987 and allowed travelling across Europe and beyond to millions of people since. It’s budget has just been renovated with the incredible amount of 26 billion Euros. So what will schools, universities, training centres and professionals do with all that money from now till the end of 2027? A number of actions are allowed, thus I point out only the main ones:
- Transnational and international mobility of Higher Education students and Staff for study periods abroad at another University or traineeships at a host company abroad.
- Transnational mobility of school students and staff for exchanges, study and traineeships
- Transnational mobility for Vocational Training students and Staff for traineeships at a host acompany abroad or at another VET centre.
- Large scale research project called Parthership for Cooperation
- Small scale project for the exchange of good practices in education and training
Thanks to the above activities (and several others included in the Erasmus+ budget heading of the EU) an estimation of 12 millions people will be allowed to travel within the context of the EU and beyond in the next 7 years.
Organisations willing to get a grant from the EU through the Erasmus+ programme must apply for it. Universities must be accredited to the EU General Directorate for Education and Training before applying for mobility projects and the same accreditation is required for those Universities outside the EU who want to participate, in partnership with an organisation based in the EU. For schools and VET Centres, accreditation has been just introduced although the programme is accessible also for non accredited education and training providers. Grant requests, in the form of applications to be filled on the EU platform are assessed against a set of principles that investigate the relevance for the selected field (HE, VET, School, Adults Education), the quality of the project desigin and implementation, the quality of the partnership and the potential impact of the initiative on the target groups involved and the wider EU education and training context. Independent Assessors are appointed based on their specific expertise in the field and work anonimously to prevent any possible conflict of interest.
For students, staff members, teachers and adults awarded with an Erasmus+ grant all costs are covered: travel, board and lodging, insurance, course fees, support for special needs (the programme is highly inclusive) thus in the past 35 years millions of EU citizens had the chance to travel abroad within the context of the studies or their job and millions will travel in the next 7 years.
Although such travels (which for some actions can take place also outside the EU territory) are meant to provide the students and the staff with the opportunity to complete their education in another Country, compare pedagogies, implement innovations that are digital, environmental and inclusive, Erasmus can be considered as the largest public supporter of the Tourism industry on a global scale.
Next time you board a flight in EU and you see a group of students on board, ask yourself if those students paid for their flight or they are the beneficiaries of a EU initiative or even asks yourself if the person sat next to you is a University teacher going to another University for a teaching assignment granted by Erasmus+.
Education is important for all of us. The 1947 UNESCO establishing statement reported that “wars” are generated in the mind of human, thus it is the mind of humans that has to be properly educated to keep peace worldwide. Erasmus+ motto is “open your mind, change your life”. As a strong supporter of the EU (despite the fact that I do not agree with all the actions and policies enforced, and a former beneficiary of an Erasmus+ grant and nowadays an independent project assessor), I can say that travel is important but travelling to study is even more.
To all the readers who are students at any level of education I say: apply for an Erasmus+ grant and give yourslef the chance to travel across Europe and beyond. Your education will benefit and your mind too.